Polish hero Walesa / MON 8-11-14 / iPhone assistant / Longtime Nikon competitor / Annual El Paso football event / Company said to use about 1% of world's wood / Of ancient greek period / apt rhyme of crude /

Monday, August 11, 2014

Constructor: David Steinberg & Bernice Gordon

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: H-LL vowel progression — five words that begin with letter pattern H-LL, with each successive themer bringing a new vowel in the second position (A thru U):

Theme answers:
  • HALLELUJAH (18A: "Thank God Almighty!")
  • HELLENISTIC (23A: Of an ancient Greek period)
  • HILLBILLY (35A: Jed Clampett, e.g.)
  • HOLLANDAISE (49A: Sauce made with butter, egg yolks and lemon juice)
  • HULLABALOO (55A: Uproar)
Word of the Day: HERNIA (21D: Result of overstrain, maybe) —
hernia is the protrusion of an organ or the fascia of an organ through the wall of the cavity that normally contains it from within. There are different kinds of hernias, each requiring a specific management or treatment. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well I MADE IT back from LA JOLLA—Seriously, super weird coincidence to see that answer (that juxtaposition!) today after my weeklong vacation there. Had a wonderful time with the whole (dad's side of the) family: dad and stepmom, their four kids (and spouses), and then *their* five kids. Fifteen total. Much beaching and drinking and Legolanding and Zooing and eating, not necessarily (though not unnecessarily) in that order. Had a delightful if comically absurd niche-fame moment when my (deep breath) stepbrother's stepdaughter's boyfriend (exhale), whose name is Logan, informed me one evening, when I was at my computer, mid-solve, that his mom reads my blog all the time and was not going to believe that he was meeting me. My family then tells him he should take a picture. So here I am, solving, having a conversation, and semi-posing for a picture, simultaneously. Hashtag TALENT.

Just a little behind-the-scenes peek at the exciting world of Guy Sitting At His Computer. And now, the Monday puzzle.

This puzzle was just fine. At 74 words (a little low for Monday) and with some not necessarily straightforward spellings, this one could've played a little tougher than normal, though it didn't for me—a shade under 3, and thus pretty much average. One nit, elegance-wise: HILLBILLY is an odd man out, insofar as those initial four letter spell a word related to the meaning of the larger word, i.e. the HALL-word is not related to a HALL, the HELL- word is not related to HELL, the HOLL- word is not related to HOLL because that's not a thing, and the HULL- word has nothing to do with any sort of HULL, but I'm pretty sure HILLBILL(ies) live in HILLs. Or near them. HILLARY or HILLEL might've made interesting candidates, though the latter couldn't have gone in the center. Anyway, HILLBILLY is at least a colorful word. Overall, the fill is average to slightly cleaner than average, I think. Doesn't contain anything too memorable, though it's got some nice touches like OLD CHAP and the aforementioned LA JOLLA. Also, can't recall ever seeing HERNIA before. I thought that word was on one of them there anatomical no-fly lists, but here it is. Look out for URINE, coming soon to a puzzle near you (and why not?).

I had exactly one solving snag—NAIL UP (47D: Seal, as a shipping crate). I guess I've never done … that. Something about the UP part just didn't want to come. But it seems like a common enough expression. For crate shippers.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Thanks to Evan, Keith, Catherine, Angela, and Doug, for allowing me to enjoy family time this past week, undistracted by the minutiae of blog management. I am, as always, grateful.


jae 12:12 AM  

Pretty impressive Mon.  One word theme answers, smooth grid, a little zip, medium difficulty for me too...just about perfect.  Nice work team!

Ellen S 12:12 AM  

What, I'm finally back here for the first time in weeks and weeks and I'm the first one in? I just want to say, Siri might know the meaning of life but do not ask her any personal questions. She is cold.

Ellen S 12:16 AM  

(Hah, not first after all. Took me too long to remember my google password. Also, the captchas seem harder. ... Harder than the puzzle, maybe.)

retired_chemist 12:21 AM  

On target for Monday. Enjoyed it.

Thanks, David and Bernice.

George Barany 12:24 AM  

Welcome back, Rex. Many double L's to contemplate besides today's vowel progression theme, including LA JOLLA, site of the Salk Institute and the Torrey Pines golf course, and the recently completed LOLLAPUZZOOLA tournament on the other coast.

I winced at HERNIA, a painful condition and all that, but by no means a debut word for the Times puzzle (8 prior uses reported at xwordinfo.com). To the best of my knowledge, this is the second collaboration between the puzzle's co-constructors; an earlier one was memorialized here.

Whirred Whacks 1:00 AM  

Any puzzle with HELLENISTIC in it is just fine with me!
I enjoyed the vowel progression, and thought the words used in it were fun!

Steve J 1:48 AM  

I usually find vowel progressions ho-hum, but the quality of the answers in this one raised it up a notch. Each of the themers had a bit of zip, and I really liked that they were all single words.

Rest of the fill was nice and clean, too, which is always welcome, especially early in the week.

I expected 36D to be a paper company, based on the clue. Interesting bit of trivia to learn it's IKEA.

Blew through this in easy-medium time for me, with my only hesitation also being NAIL UP.

And welcome back, Rex.

Moly Shu 2:04 AM  

Liked the puzzle, very good for a Monday. Not too easy and very little dreck. I did get a serious case of déjà vu with SIRI, MAIDENS, ALAMODE, and PSST. Seems like they just made appearances in the past few days. If BEHEADS is ok, I see no problem with HERNIA.

Anoa Bob 2:33 AM  

Always thought U.C. San Diego was in Torrey Pines, not LA JOLLA. But what do I know, I graduated from San Diego State.

Seems like we're seeing more and more phrases in NYT grids that have a I MADE IT up, any subject-verb-object combo will do feel to them.

Lots of white space in this one with only 32 black squares vs 36-40 that's typical for an early weeker. Opened up space for some nice stuff like COLBERT and, hmmmm, let's see, yeah, LA JOLLA. But this was offset for me by a plethora of POCs.

Is a HERNIA covered by AFLAC?

palomarPuzzler 2:36 AM  

Well, never saw the theme but I usually don't so not much of a surprise. It was surprising to see Rex rate it more than just easy since I solved in an average time for me but then it's all in what you know. Hernia seemed a bit out there but it's now lewd so there you are. Thanks, David and Bernice

Lewis 5:36 AM  

What @jae said, and as clued we don't need any MAIDENS expositions today. Just thinking about this junior/senior team of constructors makes me smile. Welcome back, Rex -- you did not sound like Captain Cranky.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP) -- So it's Monday, and the cluing is easy. Take any answer from this puzzle, and give it an end-of-the-week clue. To give us a chance to guess it, write PPP:, follow it with your clue, then skip five spaces, and write the answer in caps. Let's see what we can do. I'll start:

PPP: Preliminaries, in a way.


Danp 6:02 AM  

PPP: It runs through Rain.

LECH (a river in Bavaria)

Leapfinger 7:21 AM  

As an equal opportunity buff, I'm advocating for HISNIA.

The whole solve Hellenistickled me. I think this team of Gordon-Steinberg shows definite promise. We otter encourage them.

@JFC, sorry about that central entry, esp with OKRA adjacent. Pure happenstance, I'm sure.

They want me early @work, so TTFN.


Glimmerglass 7:29 AM  

Good, clean Monday puzzle. Unusually (perhaps uniquely) interesting vowel progression. I understand Rex's quibble about HILLBILLY, but since hillbillies live in the mountains (Appalachia, stereotypically), perhaps the term is at least ironic.

Z 7:32 AM  

Besides the whole 'HILL is intrinsic to HILLBILLY' thing, there is the 'one of these things is not highfaluting' things as well, which makes me like HILLBILLY more. It's shorter and different in two ways. It makes a nice fulcrum for the themes. For me, these are features, not bugs.

PPP: 1978 Matheson role.


RooMonster 7:34 AM  

Hey All!
I thought this was rated Easy. Nice wide open grid, 3 sevens in each corner, and no dreck! Even all the 3's were nice. I like how they pulled off the "hell" part without offense.

PSST, AFAR as I can tell, these two CATCHON to the IKEA of collaboration. No ORDEAL in solving, no LEWDness. I SLID through this with ease, no BLIPs, or SPLATS. I don't like OMELETS with. HOLLANDAISE.

Anyone know how these two started making puzzles together?

RAD2626 7:53 AM  

Fun clean way to start the week.

PPP: Rory's greatest hits


NCA President 8:09 AM  

Wow, a Monday DS puzzle....IMHO, much slicker than his later-in-the-week fare. Maybe it's because he co-wrote it? Or maybe he is just more suited to writing puzzles that he doesn't need to make more difficult than they are. I liked this puzzle and was pleasantly surprised that, in spite of the DS connection, did not swear at it once.

PPP: A pair of Italians.


AliasZ 8:14 AM  

The best feature of this puzzle was that NEON was not pluralized.

It is gratifying and fun to see the collaboration of two such talented constructors from the opposite ends of the age spectrum of NYT crossword contributors. Generation gap, schmeneration gap.

A great puzzle with very little to find wrong in it, even Jeff Chen gave it the POW (Puzzle Of the Week) award. The theme is fresh and different. I was less critical for HILLBILLY not following the pattern of the others, by carrying the meaning of the root word HILL in it. The only alternative would have been a foreign word or name like Hillel or Hillerød (city in Denmark), because most, if not all, English words/names that start with HILL derive from that word. Except HILLAAARIOUS. I tried to google HILLARY to find the etymology of the name, but all I got was Clinton, and then Sir Edmund way, WAY, down at the bottom. GGGGG. The best I could find was a variant spelling of Hilary.

The other outlier is HOLL which is not a commonly used English word. It is an obsolete or Brit. dialectal version of HOLE or HOLLOW, or a ship's hold. All other H*LLs are legitimate English words in current use, which are avoided in the theme entries (except for HILLBILLY). Excellent!

The vessel with the PESTLE scene in The Court Jester is unforgettable.

Pérotin (fl. c. 1200), also called Perotin the Great, was a European composer, believed to be French, who lived around the end of the twelfth and beginning of the 13th century. He was the most famous member of the Notre Dame school of polyphony. Here the HILLIARD Ensemble performs Pérotin's HALLELUJAH "Nativitas." It is absolutely mesmerizing music that evokes visions of old cathedrals and gothic archways, the scent of burning candles and incense, and at once sounds ancient and surprisingly modern -- not unlike our two collaborators today.

Happy Monday!

Mohair Sam 8:15 AM  

Very nicely done Monday with a minimum of dreck. I know these two teamed up a least once before and I remember enjoying that collaboration too.

Had no problem with HILLBILLY, and think nit-picking should be banned in a Monday critique anyhow.

Not sure what @rex sees in HERNIA that I miss. The word seems harmless to me.

Did you know that if you add up David Steinberg and Bernice Gordon and divide by two you get Will Shortz (give or take a year).

Loren Muse Smith 8:22 AM  

Hey, Rex! Glad you had a nice couple of vacations. Glad you're back and thanks for lining up such capable subs. Nice fame story!

I never would have noticed that HILLBILLY was the outlier, but I see it now. Agreed, though, that it's so colorful; HILLEL, HILLARY___ would have been much, much more boring, and, @AliasZ, they probably would have had to expand it to at least a 13 and hence rework the grid to boot. So I'll take HILLBILLY for sure.

I had a weird moment at 1D late in the solve. I wasn't paying attention and mis-saw my NSA as "wsa," so I thought it was "cat chow" rather than CATCH ON."

I did not realize we had the word HELLENISTIC. Seems it's different from Hellenic, so I learned something there. Cool.

I kept revisiting BEHEAD, wondering about that prefix. Seems so opposite of the prefix in, say, "bejewel." Makes you rethink other words:

beware – have a clearance inventory sale?
beside – take either the fries or the slaw off the plate?
between – make all the 11 and 12 year olds go home?
begun - disarm?
betray – clear the room service detritus?

Bernice, David – so fun to see your names as collaborators. I certainly hope more are in the pipeline! Perfect Monday puzzle.

PPP – Fueling center?


chefbea 8:23 AM  

What a yummy easy puzzle...Gosh I haven't use my mortar and pestle in years. Love Hollandaise and of course okra. And thanks to the shoutout at 42Down

Welcome back @Rex..sounds like a good time was had by all

Evan 8:40 AM  

Thank YOU, Rex, for giving me the keys to your house. No one's broken in yet under my watch (or any of the other subs' watches).


This article talks about their first collaboration last year.


[He investigated Obama for being a gay martian in October 2012]

(You all can probably guess the answer to this one)

Leapfinger 9:09 AM  

Based on the preceding, I looked at the partially-filled 51D and thought it would be SUOMI. Has that ever appeared in a NYT puzzle?

PPP: Alternative to A?


Leapfinger 9:13 AM  

[oops, forgot]

@A-Z, mesmerizing, very modern. The Cowell of his time? otoh, Ms Gordon may not appreciate your use of the word 'ancient'.

Arlene 9:19 AM  

I'm always looking for new ways to solve - so when I saw the theme from the bottom three answers, I filled in HALL and HELL at 18A and 23A, and continued to solve. A little variation for a routine Monday. I'm not even sure if that made solving faster - but I don't think it slowed things down.

joho 9:21 AM  

Perfect Monday!

It's funny because I immediately wrote in DenizEn for DWELLER making it much harder that it should've been.

Loved LAJOLLA where I've spend many happy times. Welcome back @Rex!

I did cringe at BEHEADS.

When done my eyes went to ALL at 7D and then ELL at 32D and I started looking for the rest.

We are off to a great start to the week thanks to the dynamic duo of Bernice and David ... thanks, guys!

AliasZ 10:04 AM  



bequest - End the search.
bemoan - Stop kvetching.
bedeck - Remove that old eye-sore from the back of your house.
behold - Release your wrestling opponent.
belonging - Curb your desires.

I have many more, but who cares.

@Leaps and bounds

I am sure Bernice has a great sense of humour to know that what I wrote was meant in the best of spirits and with the greatest respect. If she reads my comment, she'll probably crack a smile.

I often feel ancient... Don't you?

PPP: Singles hits?


jberg 10:08 AM  

I got the theme from HELLENISTIC and HILLBILLY, and, departing from my usual practice, immediately wrote in the other three theme answers. That made the puzzle really easy. Also really enjoyable -- "HE'D" is about the only clunker.

One summer while I was in school I had a summer job in the shipping department of a company that made ping pong equipment -- so I would NAIL UP the crates it was shipped in many times a day. On top of that, when I was in my early teens my parents went off for a week-long truss-fitting school in Cincinnati (I am NOT making this up!) so they could pick up a little extra money tending to HERNIAs in my Dad's pharmacy. So it seems an ordinary term to me. Nice to see it in the puzzle! Not so nice to see anywhere else.

Welcome back, @Rex!

Carola 10:13 AM  

I smiled when I saw the byline and got ready for their HALLmark wit and creativity. I thought the theme words were great - impressive feat of finding 5 that would work, with the four initial letters and then proper lengths.

I liked envisioning the playful OTTER on the muddy river bank: SLID over SPLATS.

PPP: Pepe's Italian partner?


wreck 10:42 AM  


Your comment reminded me of the old SNL skit with "Fred Garvin - Male Prostitute" and his "elaborate network of trusses!"

Masked and Anonymo4Us 10:48 AM  

PPP: weeject clue suggestion...
Slur of slur?


Punch 11:07 AM  

I loved the theme answers. And I notice, if I’m not mistaken, that the first four letters of ALL of the theme answers relate (via etymology) “to the meaning of the larger word”, though only one spells a four letter word that does so as well. Another “odd man out” would be Hellenistic — it is the only word that gets capitalized.

I know some said they had to experience a wince or a cringe, but I agree with others, and I don’t see a prob with “hernia”, and I think the puzzle should tend in the direction of trying to be as inclusive as possible unless there’s a decent reason.

John Child 11:25 AM  

Horny African?

What Ralph did



Bob Kerfuffle 11:31 AM  

Excellent Monday puzzle!

Here's a picture of HERNIA. (Of course it's safe to look!)

P.S. -- Chiming in a bit late, but Lollapuzoola 7 was a great day. Don't know the official count, but seemed 200 or more in attendance, the room seemingly full to the limit.

Won't try to name all those there, but included two of my closest friends from Rexville, @mac and @imsdave, the two people who got me into tournament crosswords, and so many of the familiar constructors, including Evan.

Happy to report that the element of zaniness, which had flagged a bit in the last couple of years, was back in strength, with visual, auditory, and dramatic flourishes to the crosswords.

Dare not give too much away, but at least one puzzle would have left more than a few of the regular commenters on this blog livid, but had me and many others saying, "You got me good!"

evil doug 12:14 PM  

Itsa connected to her shinna...



retired_chemist 1:25 PM  

I have enjoyed this collaboration both times I have encountered it. Steinberg and Gordon play off one another very well.

Among my fastest 10% of Mondays (I think- I don't ke=p records), so I have to call it easy. But zippy. Nice theme words, good fill.

If Rex wants the juxtaposition of I MADE IT and LA JOLLA to be noticed, The felicitous fortuity is compensated for by the one below: NAIL UP MAIDENS IN SECTS. Sorta Warren Jeffs stuff and NOT breakfasty.

Thanks, Mr. Steinberg and Ms. Gordon. Keep 'em coming.

dk 2:12 PM  


Good gawd what a difference experience makes. Solid Monday.

Recovering from an Andrea thrashing at Miniature Golf. Who know puzzle and Scrabble skills generalized to putt putt.

Welcome back Cap'n Crank.

30a should be cued as Tapper of everything but ALES (see Acmes LA Times puz for the lame cross ref.)

Uncle John C 2:23 PM  

PPP - Western e.g.


Ray J 2:42 PM  

@Bob K – I checked xwordinfo and found that HERNIA has appeared 9 times but never clued in reference to Hamlet. Seems like a good Saturday clue to me. Snert, BTW, has appeared 31 times.

@Rex – I thought maybe, just maybe, “URINETOWN: The Musical” might have made it into a NYT puzzle, but no dice. C’mon, Will! A play with songs like “It’s a privilege to pee” and “I see a river” could be a gold mine of fun.

RooMonster 3:18 PM  

Thanks @Evan, cool story. One day I'll have a story about having a puz in the NYT...

@Evil, that was awesome!


Z 3:54 PM  

For those who care, the Monday LAT xword is co-constructed by ACME. A little shocked at both baseball and the Rolling Stones making an appearance, but my overall well-being is doing great.

chefbea 4:04 PM  

Just did Andrea's puzzle.Good one

Numinous 4:05 PM  

PPP – Gaelic blanket


sanfranman59 4:57 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:01, 6:01, 1.00, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:09, 3:57, 1.05, 72%, Medium-Challenging

Lewis 4:58 PM  

So many terrific answers. We will have to revisit this PPP from time to time.

chefbea 8:11 PM  

RIP Robin Williams

Rex Parker 9:09 PM  

I am getting hate mail (like, a lot) re: the whole "PPP" thing in the comments section, just FYI. It's real off-putting to whoever is not in on whatever it is that you're doing.

I opted out of constant engagement w/ comments a long time ago, but I still hope this area can be a non-cliquish, informative, interesting place to be. If not, well … not. I don't have the energy to regulate / police.


Anonymous 10:04 PM  

Wow. 'Hate- mail is such a strong term. Not just aggravated mail, in that case, I'm guessing.
I have to say I'm somewhat surprised that nobody spoke up directly about this, but all seemed to run straight to Daddy. There was alsways the option to complain under cover of anonymity, after all.

Guess too many people were enjoying it today.

Anonymous 10:34 PM  

Thank you Rex.

Anonymous 11:17 PM  

Glad that such a grim bunch of gutless wonders were able to win the Captain Crankypants Challenge with their hate mail today. Enough of this catering to the faithful blog regulars nonsense. Let us return to the good old ancient days of soulless, rigid analysis of the day's across and down answers, only. Innovative extra puzzle banter has been expunged before, and it needs to be done again, relentlessly, until the ultimate goal of slackjaw ordinariness is securely obtained.

Best of luck.

wreck 11:52 PM  

..... After all, this is VERY serious business.

spacecraft 11:13 AM  

Just looking at the grid was an eye-opener today. 3x7s in all four corners? On a MONDAY yet? There might be three people on the planet who could pull that off--and two of them appear on the byline.

Okay, PSST ATEIT for being an overworked crutch, but ASIDE from that, this puzzle SLID down the ol' spacecraft gullet like a TEESHOT of Southern Comfort.


See, people? You CAN do it! It just takes a little care! This is how a puzzle is supposed to look.

The theme is pedestrian, a simple vowel progression, but involving H_LL-, which adds some spice to it. I was not bothered by the HILLBILLY entry; if anything, HELLENISTIC evoked a frown. How does that differ from "Hellenic?"

No matter, the rest of this was so smooth I had to give it an A+.

145, just a bit too AFAR.

DMG 1:25 PM  

A smooth Monday, tho it challenged my spelling skills once or twice, and it took a minute to see "dress" as a verb. LAJOLLA, just down the road from here, was a snap, but I was surprised it seemed to present no problem to those in other climes. Must be more famous than I thought!

The Captchas get fuzzier and fuzzier, but I think this one is 133. Not a winner!

Dirigonzo 5:45 PM  

HELLENISTIC - I guess anything related to HYLLUS would be a stretch on a Monday (well OK, on any day).

Oooh - 314. Looking good.

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